The following is a true story, related to me by hunter/jumper instructor Anna Jane White-Mullin in a radio interview some years ago. A young girl had been taking lessons on a school horse and had talked her Dad into buying her a horse of her own. They had narrowed it down to two prospects: a flashy four year old, off-the-track Thoroughbred with a promising future; and a solid teenaged horse with a great deal of experience. The girl was lobbying hard for the younger horse. The girl’s father asked Anna Jane for her advice and, without a moment’s hesitation, Anna Jane replied, “Get the older horse. He will take care of your daughter, forgive her mistakes, and allow her to progress.” The father seemed to understand, thanked Anna Jane, and went on his way.
Some time later, Anna Jane learned the rest of the story.
The father assumed that in a few years his daughter would lose interest in riding and he would have to sell the horse. He reasoned that the younger horse would be easier to sell and would yield a greater return on his investment. The daughter of course was thrilled to get the horse of her dreams and tried her best to ride him. Unfortunately, the green horse and green rider proved a tragic combination. The girl was thrown, shattered her elbow, and was permanently disfigured. One can only imagine how the father must have felt.
I tell this story often because I want the importance of the message to sink in. Kids and puppies are cute. Kids and young horses are disastrous. If you know someone about to make this very common mistake, please do everything in your power to dissuade them. Have them email me and I will do the same.
Just this weekend, I spoke at Equine Affaire Massachusetts on this very topic. I learned later that two young sisters had been in the audience. Each was matched with an inappropriate horse, were regularly being bucked off or run away with, and were petitioning their parents to buy yet another horse for them, a three year old BLM mustang. I can only hope that the parents took my message to heart.
Those of you who know me personally know that I have strong feelings about childrearing and the parent’s role in creating strong, self-sufficient, responsible citizens. I believe in creating boundaries and requiring children (and horses) to live within the boundaries. Saying “no” to a child is hard but is sometimes the most loving thing a parent can do, especially when it comes to saying “no” to an inappropriate horse.